The college coaching carousel started spinning early this fall.
It began a week ago, when Nebraska fired head coach Scott Frost, and it continued Sunday when Arizona State became the second Power 5 team to make an early-season coaching change. The Sun Devils parted ways with Herm Edwards just three games into his fifth season with the program.
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Just hours after Arizona State’s decision to cut ties with Edwards, Auburn coach Bryan Harsin’s name popped up as a potential replacement — despite being just three games into the second season of a six-year contract. ESPN’s Pete Thamel identified Harsin as a name to watch for the Sun Devils’ opening, along with BYU coach Kalani Sitake, former Texas coach Tom Herman, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, Marshall coach Charles Huff, North Dakota State coach Matt Entz, Kent State coach Sean Lewis, Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Oklahoma State (and former Auburn) defensive coordinator Derek Mason and USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
It’s notable that Thamel also broke the news of Auburn’s hiring of Harsin in December 2020 and was one of the ESPN reporters Harsin turned to for an interview to defend himself during the early stages of the university’s February inquiry into his handling of the program.
Harsin, who spent most of his life and coaching career out west, is 8-8 in his first 16 games at Auburn. His team is coming off its first loss of the season — a 41-12 blowout at the hands of Penn State that marked Auburn’s worst home loss in a decade and the team’s fifth consecutive loss to Power 5 competition.
While pressure has been mounting on Harsin since last season’s 6-7 finish — which was followed by a tumultuous offseason — he is under contract with Auburn through Dec. 31, 2026. He signed a six-year, $31.5 million deal to take over the program following the firing of Gus Malzahn in December 2020. If he were to be fired before the end of that deal, Auburn would owe him 70 percent of the money remaining on his contract. If Harsin leaves for another job before the end of this season, he would owe Auburn a $5 million buyout.
When asked Saturday evening about his job security following the Tigers’ lopsided home loss and how he handles hot-seat talk, Harsin said he “can’t control that” and can only control what he does each day.
“I’m always coaching for this football team, alright, and these players, No. 1,” Harsin said. “…What I’ve always done is coach for this team, these players, these coaches, make sure I’m doing my job, having our team prepared and all that. I don’t control any of those others things other than what I do each and every day. That’s been no different since I’ve been a GA to being a head football coach; I’ve operated the same way and had the same mindset, so we put more expectations on ourselves than anybody else, alright? That’s always been that way. So, at the end of the day, I’m disappointed for our football team, and my job is to make sure we put together a plan and put a football team out there that can go compete and play at a high level, and that’s always the expectations. The standard needs to be better than what it was, and that’s really all we’re going to focus on.
“For our football team, it’s the same thing; I tell those guys that…. I love being a part of that. I love putting plans together and processes and all those things, so that we can do that. At the end of the day, this is why we get a chance to do what we do, because we’re good at it. I believe in this team, and I believe in what we’re doing, and we got to be better at it. So, at the end of the day, that’s all I ever focus on.”
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.